Saturday, February 15
so, new jersey. the state of love. imagine…metuchen you in a rahway. um, amboy, secaucus. weehawken. oh, yeah baby. what better place to be on valentine's e'en. ben and i forsook our sweeties, but we did a good job of bickering and cooing, feeding each other and so on, like lovers do. we listened to the tape of the reality is lubricated special valentine broadcast, which i hadn't heard since we did it live exactly a year ago. it was a bit fast so alyssa and i sounded a little young. (she and i were, i noticed, the only people in french theory that were wearing red.) getting there, we followed mapquest perfectly, but due to dumb congestion in poorly planned stretches of highway, didn't arrive until an hour after the show was supposed to start.
of course, maxwells being maxwells, we were fine - no trouble with will-call, just impossible to get closer than twenty feet thick with message-checkin "industry" types and i guess die-hard beck-necks. the band (including darling jason falkner on guitar! - though unfortunately they didn't do any of his material) was rock-tight, and a nice change from the summer tour. i was hoping for something a little special, considering the special nature of the gig, but mostly they just did the same pretty morose sea change plus mutations material that he's been squeezing dry for most of last year. all very pleasant, but so so samey (highlights i guess were waltzy picky "dead melodies," kinda intense "sunday sun" and sped-up "lost cause.") he did "do you realize?" alone, but the little intro was so canned, and he couldn't even respond to a fan's demonstration of its transparency except to say his "line." on each song, he would approach the mike with a deer-in-headlights glare, sing the first line, then close his eyes for the rest of the song.
finally, at the end of the (shortish - making way for the toasters) set, he said "okay, we're going to do something from midnite vultures." and the crowd goes wild. they pumped out "nicotine and gravy" like nobody's bizness (but their own), tight as hell, and got us all dancing and singing in falsetto "i don't wanna die tonite." and beck came alive! - eyes open, dancing, smiling. i was like, dude, if you can have so much fun doing this stuff, why spend an entire set re-wallowing in the same glummery you've done to death all year? i dunno. they kept up the funk with a "jam" medley of "hot in herre," "genius of love," and "erotic city," all pitch-perfect recreations of the original arrangements, and well chosen too (except maybe the nelly, which has become inevitable so fast it's scary - now it's impossible to make a comment about temperature without it being a pop-rap reference). beck=prince, duh. why does he pretend like he's always been this serious non-jokester guy? even mutations has its humor. anyway - as you can tell, that last bit was the moment that made it all worth it.
it made worth it the yanni holdline, the shoebox that said "save the nature," the missing of non-foucault discussion, the hannah thing, the congestion and even the ill-fated return drive, where we neglected mapquest entirely, thinking we could handle the hiways alone. we made something on the order of ten minor, and one or two major, road-selection errors, due to a combination of ignorant maplessness and the distraction of the benways (finally getting its tracklist - this has been the longest gestation period of any mix i've made. 120 minutes is such a long time when you're attending to and dissecting each song in turn). it was kind of ridiculous - even after getting back to philly (so nice to see the skyline, a counterpoint to the gorgeous big apple one across the hudson along jfk boulevard, with the empire state shining red on the day that makes everything red jump out with renewed significance), we found ourselves way the hell out in kulpsville, filling the nearly empty tank, and finally buying a map. oh, god.
something like seven toll-tickets later (it wasn't even that late), we cruised past the friendly old springfield mall. seeing that, after a few hours of stripmalls and the hideous disheartening awfulness of it all, that erases the potential of beauty in ike's highways, which is there you know, made me realize something. the homogenaiety of highway (as a subcosm of american) life/culture, all those big stores with signs just so that reiterate themselves every five miles, as we know, makes everywhere you go seem familiar (eventually, not just in a confusing way, but very really.) i think maybe it engenders familiarity this way to such an extent that it devalues actual familiarity. so that when you get someplace that you genuinely do recognize, it might as well be anywhere, it might as well have no connection to you. and more implications…it's depressing thoughts. some of this, i was saying, is related to my frustration with the beck in his current incarnation. maybe that's not really fair. and anyway, like i said: it's worth it.
after all these days
on godforsaken highways
the roads don't love you
and they still wont pretend to